Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media: Explorations in Media, Religion, and Culture

Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media: Explorations in Media, Religion, and Culture

Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media: Explorations in Media, Religion, and Culture

Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media: Explorations in Media, Religion, and Culture

Synopsis

Increasingly, the religious practices people engage in and the ways they talk about what is meaningful or sacred take place in the context of media culture -- in the realm of the so-called secular. Focusing on this intersection of the sacred and the secular, this volume gathers together the work of media experts, religious historians, sociologists of religion, and authorities on American studies and art history. Topics range from Islam on the Internet to the quasi-religious practices of Elvis fans, from the uses of popular culture by the Salvation Army in its early years to the uses of interactive media technologies at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Beit Hashoah Museum of Tolerance. The issues that the essays address include the public/private divide, the distinctions between the sacred and profane, and how to distinguish between the practices that may be termed "religious" and those that may not.

Excerpt

The intersection between religion and the media first came to public and scholarly attention in the middle of the twentieth century At that time, the “presenting problem,” as it was called, was the emergence of religious broadcasts not sanctioned by religious and secular authorities. Interest was heightened in the 1970s when another new phenomenon, televangelism, burst onto the scene. Alongside these discussions of religious uses of the media, debates arose about media coverage of religion at a time when religion was playing an ever more important role in domestic and international politics.

These earlier considerations were rooted in a particular way of looking at both media and religion: as separate and separable entities that could be seen as acting independently of one another and as having impacts or effects on one another. In this view, “religion” and “the media” are autonomous, independent realms, and the central questions involve a kind of competition between them.

Today, we can see that the situation is more complex. A good deal of what goes on in the multiple relationships between religion and the media involves layered interconnections between religious symbols, interests, and meanings and the modern media sphere within which much of contemporary culture is made and known. When, for example, icons of popular music openly express their religious faiths, but in ways that are . . .

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